Sunday, November 19, 2006

Not By Might

Throughout my life I have been given certain responsibilities that require a lot of work and determination in order to complete. Many times, before undertaking the work required to finish these responsibilities, I'd think to myself, "This is too hard! How am I going to do this? I'm never going to finish!" Like me, I am sure you have been given certain tasks that require you to do a lot of work as well and maybe you have even had the same negative thoughts as I have. These stressful times in our lives can end in frustration and disappointment if we forget that only by the power of the Holy Spirit can anything of lasting value be completed.

An account of an assignment that required a lot of work and determination can be found towards the back of the Old Testament. In 586 B.C., God brought the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, against the people of Judah because of their constant disobedience. Nebuchadnezzar's army destroyed Jerusalem (which is in Judah), burned the Temple of God and took the survivors from Judah as exiles to Babylon to become servants to the king and his sons (see 2 Chronicles 36:15-20). In 539 B.C., King Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon and in 538 B.C. the exiles returned to Judah to rebuild the Temple (see 2 Chronicles 36:22-23). Finally, 50 years after its destruction (536 B.C.), the Temple's reconstruction began (see Ezra 3:7-11). However, because of their enemies' interventions, the exiles were unable to completely finish the Temple (see Ezra 4). After this, opposition put a halt to progress and there was no further work done on the Temple for over 10 years.

Through His prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, God told the exiles to resume work on the Temple. Zerubbabel (who I will refer to as Zeru for your mouth's sake), the governor of Judah, was given the responsibility of making sure the task of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem was carried out (see Ezra 3:2, 8; Haggai 1:1; 2:23). As you can imagine, the assignment of rebuilding the temple wasn't a simple task. However, through the whole ordeal, God gave encouragement to Zeru through His prophets. In Zechariah 4:6, God revealed to Zeru that the Temple would be completed "not by force nor by strength, but by [His] Spirit".

As you can see, Zeru and the people of Judah went through a time where the task they were given was humongous and the opposition was strong. Nevertheless, God was always with them and ultimately, it wasn't force, strength or any other ability given to man that completed the assignment; it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that the monumental task was overcome.

When you are faced with a large project or a difficult time, do you react as if what you have been given will not be enough to make it through? Or do you rely on God to fill in the gaps of your abilities? We can and should take comfort in the fact that, as Christians, we do not have to rely on our own strengths or abilities in order to do the Lord's work. For "[God] takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse or in human might. No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His unfailing love" (Psalm 147:10-11). Remind yourself throughout the day that you are not alone in the tasks that God has given you. He will prepare you to overcome what He has called you to do. All you have to do is be faithful to Him and count on His unfailing love.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Forever Hope

Pierce, my eight year old brother, is going through the stage of his life where he becomes anxious during the times when our parents aren't around. This past week my parents went on a vacation and were gone for four days. The day they left, Pierce came to me and asked, "Collin, when you were younger and mom and dad went on vacation. How did you make it through?" After thinking a bit, I looked him in the eyes and I told him that our mom and dad would give me a prize to look forward to when they came back so that I would think about the prize instead of the anxious time I was going through. I then told him that, if he could make it through the days that our parents were gone, I'd take him to get some ice cream. His face lit up and I could tell that he was already starting to feel better and was ready to take his anxieties head on.

Just like a trip to get ice cream gave my youngest brother hope and something to look forward to, so too does the prize that God offers us at the end of our days here on earth. Philippians 3:14 says, "I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us." Paul was sharing with the Philippians that, although he had not reached perfection (verse 12), he was choosing to focus on "forgetting the past and looking forward to what [lied] ahead" (verse 13).

There is no doubt that you will go through hard times that will test your spiritual endurance, but how do you respond to these times? Do you focus on the hope you have in Christ? Or do you allow the evil one to make you feel worthless? Because we live in a sinful world, it is easy to become discouraged when trying to live our lives for Christ. We may begin to feel that what we have to offer for Christ is not worth anything or that we are not usable by Him. Although there will be times when you will feel like you've lost all stamina and you want to give up, take time to focus on the hope you have through Jesus Christ. For "though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever." (2 Corinthians 4:16b-18)